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IDFA 2020: Bruce

19 November 2020

Chronicle of a reformed prisoner                                                    Bruce by Daniel Krikke

Daniel Krikke is an entrepreneur and social activist as well as a filmmaker. His company produces a successful travelling theatre show called 'Prison Monologues', based on the true stories of ex-prisoners. Bruce, the subject of Krikke's new film of that name (world-premiering in IDFA Competition for Dutch Documentary), was one of the former prisoners who featured in the show.

"It was just a heartbreaking story but it's not a unique story," Krikke says of the charismatic but troubled young man from a drug and crime-filled background trying to find his way back into society after a long stint in jail. "There are a lot of youngsters out there with the same story, the same background."

After a 60-date theatre show tour across the Netherlands in 2019, Krikke and Bruce decided they should also make a documentary. "He [Bruce] was really willing to work with us. He trusted us with his story in a very intimate way."

On one level, this is an inspirational tale. Over the three years that Krikke worked with him, the ex-con, now 28, turned his life around. Not that this was a comfortable film for Bruce to make. "We are confronting him with his own demons," Krikke says. "He is developing self-reflective skills, looking in the mirror and facing those demons, dealing with them. His whole attitude has changed. His mindset has changed. He is way more positive. I am very proud of him. It's beautiful to see how a person can transform in a pretty short time."

Krikke learned that one of Bruce's biggest dreams was to build his own house in Surinam, his country of origin, and raise a family there. The director knew that this dream might provide the perfect conclusion for the film. The last 20 minutes of the documentary, which follow Bruce to Surinam, have a very different, far calmer "vibe" to the earlier parts of the film, in which he is still in the Netherlands, struggling to put his life together after prison.

The director's previous documentary Scared Of Revolution, about civil rights campaigner and celebrated African-American poet Umar Bin Hassan, also screened at IDFA. However, filmmaking is only part of what he does. He is heavily involved in theatre and has a company, The Dutch Expertise Centre for Vitality, which trains corporate executives how to deal with stress. "I like to say I am the hardest working person in the room. I think I still am," he says of the way he juggles multiple different activities.

"Bruce's story is symbolic for a lot of people around the world, especially in the Netherlands, with the same background, the same struggles as an ex-prisoner and a victim of a bad background," Krikke reflects. That is why the director is placing as much emphasis on social outreach through his documentary as on conventional distribution. He is organising a tour during which the film will be taken to prisons and youth facilities. "We'll be showing the movie, doing workshops, inspirational sessions etc etc to inspire and train young people, prisoners and ex-prisoners, to develop the soft skills Bruce developed during the whole project while working with us."

This will be launched next year, circumstances permitting. In the meantime, Krikke is pushing ahead with two new documentaries. One is called Innovating To Zero!, inspired by a Bill Gates Ted talk about climate change. The other, Rise, is about female empowerment across the globe, "about powerful women who come from nothing and are now fighting for other women."

As for Bruce, Krikke's connection with him is well beyond that of the typical relationship between filmmaker and subject. "We always make a very personal investment in movies...He got to know my parents and my sister. Bruce is now family pretty much!"

For further reading: 
-> SEE NL Magazine Online, November 2020 / IDFA Doc issue 
-> Line-Up Dutch Docs At IDFA 2020 
-> Watch: Showreel Dutch Documentaries IDFA 2020

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